How long can Mike Scioscia start Mathis over Conger? A fan’s perspective

Mike Scioscia is a former catcher and one of the best managers in Major League Baseball, but his loyalty has been his downfall in the past.

The case of Jeff Mathis(notes) and Hank Conger(notes) is a perfect example of Scioscia's loyalty getting in the way of a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim prospect's emergence as a solid and productive hitter in the Angels' lineup.

Scioscia likes to have Jeff Mathis in the game because of his defensive skills and his superior ability to manage a game from behind the plate. The problem for Mathis is that he is now getting competition from Conger behind the plate, as well. Conger is catching more base runners stealing and he has become better in his ability to catch the pitchers and manage the game.

At the plate there is no comparison. Hank Conger is a productive member of the lineup and Jeff Mathis is an easy out for the opposing pitcher. Conger is hitting .297 in 19 games as of May 9 and his three home runs and 11 RBIs help to make this decision a no-brainer. Mathis has hit one home run and has just five RBIs. As of May 9, Mathis has fallen below .200 and now owns a pathetic .197 average.

Since May 1, Scioscia has still not made the split with Mathis. In nine games for the month of May, Conger has started five games and Mathis has started four. For the season, Mathis has started 20 games and Conger has started 19 games. This may make for fresh legs as the team comes into the dog days of summer but it also will lead to lineup that is never cohesive.

Scioscia isn't much for running the same lineup every week. Last season, Scioscia used over 130 lineups during the season. This season he has attempted to keep the same lineup, and on the last road trip Scioscia rarely deviated from the main lineup.

As the summer begins to heat up, the Angels will need Conger's bat in the lineup and a decision regarding the catching position needs to be made soon. The short answer is the easiest solution. Start Conger five games per week and insert Mathis two games a week. Conger has the opportunity to achieve some milestones and make a possible run at Rookie of the Year honors if he gets a full-time shot this year.

*Todd Jacobs is a native Anaheim resident and a long time Los Angeles Angels fan.

Statistical sources:

Hank Conger stats

Jeff Mathis stats

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Updated Tuesday, May 10, 2011